A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

More wild fruit picking in Japan- YAMABOSHI (山法師)- the fruit of the kousa dogwood tree!

By Avi Landau


Because it’s early autumn, when Noriko Iwamoto told me that she had brought some fruit from her garden, visions of nashi (Japanese pears), grapes, and chestnuts danced in my head. What she pulled out of her bag, however, came as a complete surprise — a handful of what looked like small lychees or large raspberries – the fruit of the kousa dogwood tree, called yamabo-shi in Japan. Interestingly, this can be written either as 山法師 (literally: mountain monk) or 山帽子 (mountain hat), with the same pronunciation. I’ve also heard that some Japanese call it yamakuwa (mountain mulberry).

Most people don’t seem to know that this fruit, which grows on a very common  tree, is edible – and sometimes delicious. My friends and I cracked open the crusty shell and sucked out the guava-like pulp — mmm, a tasty treat indeed!

As do all trees of this type, Noriko’s kousa dogwood (also called a Japanese dogwood), blooms with a distinctive white ninja-star shaped flower in June and July, and bears fruit in September and October. In Tsukuba you can find these trees on the side of roads and in parks, as well as in private gardens. They can be enjoyed for their flowers and autumn foliage (a spectacular red), as well as their fruit.

While you are out collecting the ginkgo nuts which will be falling to the ground in greater and greater numbers over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for the Japanese dogwood and you can probably score a handful of the beautiful yamabo-shi for yourself. According to traditional Asian beliefs they have beneficial effects on the liver and kidney. You can also find some recipes for jam, liqueur, etc. on-line.

Kousa dogwood (yamaboshi) in Tsukuba
Kousa dogwood (yamaboshi) in Tsukuba


I could tell you where to look, but then that would take most of the fun out of it for you!

Happy hunting (fellow foragers)!

Here are some more pictures.


  • Mamoru Shimizu says:

    we made Yamabousi-jam this year for the first time. In our Garden my wife picked a fruit and tasted,then thought it could be used for making jam. She made it, only one spoonful amount she tasted, around 100g residue I tasted, not so bad,enjoyed, very slight mango-like-order,orange color,sweet enough because of added suger.
    Anyway I am glad to know that there was another good fellow who worships Yamabousi!! Thanks Mountain-God(Yamano-kami)!!
    It is the symbol tree of our M&M Garden. Like your picture flowers and branchs are beautiful and fruits themselves have beatiful color!
    My-boushi(Hat)has been changed to Tyrolean-hat from the 1st of October・・・no relation to Yamabousi?

  • akemi says:

    Hello. Thanks for the interensting article on Sakimori-no-uta. Just one reflection. You say:<> I rather think that they “sang” poems instead of “witing” and Yakamochi gathered them and wrote them down. Manyoshu was written in Manyogana, which means that the Japanese didn’t yet have their own writing system sufficiently developed and especially defused to lawer classes. What do you think about it?

    • Avi Landau says:

      Akemi-san, thank you for your comments on my post about the SAKIMORI NO UTA. You are correct in indicating that WROTE or WRITE might not be exactly the best expression for the act of creation of those works.

      You suggest using SING, though in English this would give the impression of a melody. Perhaps RECITE is better.

      Maybe the safest way of saying what I wanted to say is COMPOSE- not necessarily with brush and paper, but in ones mind.

      The point you make about the use of MANYOGANA is also interesting and important.
      Thank you for writing and hope to hear from you again